In October I had the pleasure of attending a national fundraising symposium sponsored by the Development Office of the Episcopal Church. During the two-day event a number of themes were discussed, but one in particular stuck in my mind: Thank God for the millennials. They give hope to the future of the Church.
This struck me as odd for a number of reasons. Millennials (defined by the Pew Research Center as those born after 1980) seem to be a difficult group to engage. Some studies indicate that they are more focused on fame and are less community oriented. As they become adults, they tend to be more unaffiliated with structured denominations such as the Episcopal Church than any generation before them.
But as they have grown up, this generation has shown that they have the potential to be a beacon of hope for those of us who work in the nonprofit sector. Millennials tend to eagerly participate in causes they find worthy. According to a 2012 Millennial Impact Study, 75 percent of millennials made a financial contribution to a nonprofit organization and 63 percent volunteered. Millennials are savvy donors, giving their time and funds to organizations that are making a difference; however, they give only after they first conduct research and connect. (By the way, most rely on Internet research, which makes me ask how our website looks to these potential donors.)
So what does that mean for the Church, and what does that mean for Shrine Mont?
Another recurring message out of the symposium was that development is not about fundraising; it is about building relationships. So how do we, the Church, build relationships with this generation? Is it involving them in outreach efforts, youth programs or days of volunteer service? How do we better communicate with a generation that relies so heavily on digital communications? Seventy percent of those who give made their gift online.
Shrine Mont has an excellent opportunity to re-engage millennials with their experience here or through similar experiences in other dioceses. As I look at Shrine Mont and the Millennial generation, I realize that thousands of this generation have been to Shrine Mont and have wonderful memories of their experiences here. Shrine Mont is a place where the youth find a connection with God and the Church. We need to renew, maintain and celebrate these relationships.
Shrine Mont and the Church can connect with this generation and make that hope for the future of the Church a reality.